Summary of “Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Education”

After reading the article Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Education, written by Philip Katz, my outlook on interdisciplinarity has expanded even more than it already has. The article began with the ideas behind how Independent Institutions innovate and thrive in interdisciplinarity. A great point that Katz mentioned was, “Interdisciplinary teaching promotes greater student engagement in learning, enhances the development of higher cognitive skills, fosters more creative thinking, increases sensitivity to ethical issues, and leads to greater tolerance for ambiguity.”

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I could not agree more with this statement Katz made. When students are in charge of what they are studying, they are more focused and intrigued because it’s aimed towards their own future. What lies ahead of them is a direct correlation on their motivation towards their studies and their creativity in each discipline. Another part of Katz list of Interdisciplinary thrives that really opened up my eyes to the real world was a metaphor he mentioned. “Interdisciplinarity is the bridge between the academy and the real world” (Philip Katz). This is what is so special about an interdisciplinary major because each step forward in your academics is a connection you make to the real world initially. Considering the future will be almost all networking and web based, every footprint you leave on the web is a step closer to your future and Katz really allowed me to understand that.

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Even though this article promotes and supports Interdisciplinary Studies, there are also barriers that are discussed. “The world has problems, but universities have departments”—and departments foster narrow, single-discipline perspectives” (quoted in Hyun 2011, 6). The narrow departments are a huge issue when it comes to interdisciplinarity because they limit students from education. The reason for this is because these departments don’t allow students to take courses they might truly be interested in if their department doesn’t involve that course. In opposition, interdisciplinarity allows students to express and dive into areas of interest and create a web of these disciplines in their own creative way. Katz discusses the barriers that stop institutions from carrying interdisciplinarity in this article. Many barriers didn’t seem massive or unapproachable but one of the bigger barriers Katz mentioned was, “often the faculty: how they are trained and socialized in their academic disciplines, how they are hired, and how they are rewarded for disciplinary research and teaching.”

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When I read this barrier, I hadn’t even thought about the faculty involved with the innovation of interdisciplinarity. Would this require teachers to have a different education? Would it force a different aspect of teaching that some faculty might not approve of? I definitely can see the barriers that this style of learning can cause on the social aspect of a college but is it still worth pursuing? Of course; these barriers are nothing compared to the education each student can get from their own, designed, learning paths.
Katz, also believing interdisciplinarity is worth investing in created questions in his article on how to overcome these boundaries. Katz came up with the idea of using assessments to connect goals with program structure, content, pedagogy, and paying attention to students as individuals instead of a class. This was another eye-opening moment I had. Teachers spent time looking at a class as a whole where as each student has a different outlook of the course so why group them all together? The following questions are questions Katz believes could help overcome the barriers between department style learning and interdisciplinary studies. “What is the best mix of interdisciplinary and disciplinary instruction to achieve the desired student learning outcomes? What is the best way to evaluate the student learning outcomes of interdisciplinary education?

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Is there a potential conflict between interdisciplinary curricular initiatives and existing institutional approaches to faculty hiring, faculty governance, program funding, or promotion and tenure? What policies would be most effective to recognize and reward faculty members and departments for interdisciplinary teaching? All these questions introduce ways interdisciplinarity could be debated and accepted at institutions by the faculty.
I really thought this article articulated the innovations interdisciplinarity offers to students, the problems or barriers that stand in the way, as well as how to over come those boundaries. The fact that Katz touched on each aspect of interdisciplinarity along with its weaknesses allows readers to make their own opinion by the end of the article which is essentially an aspect of interdisciplinary studies because it allows us as readers to creatively form what we believe is true about this path of learning. Allowing readers to make their own conclusion is a great for cognitive learning and creativity. The article Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Education was intriguing to read and offered valid information about this path of education and style of learning.


Katz, Philip M. “Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Education.” The Council of Independent Colleges, May 2015, pp. 1–17. ERIC: Educational Resources Information Center, ED569211,



One thought on “Summary of “Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Education””

  1. This is exactly what so many faculty and administrators are wrestling with at Plymouth State right now as we try to redesign the entire university around interdisciplinary experiences and curriculum. Everyone can see the benefits, but the obstacles are serious and need lots of attention before we can just plunge forward. This is a really helpful article and analysis that I will share with my colleagues. Thank you!

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